3.1 This section of the policy covers the following types of material:

  • monographs;
  • serials;
  • newspapers;
  • microforms;
  • ephemera;
  • posters.


3.2 Australian printed materials in all languages and scripts are acquired.


3.3 Several large formed collections relating to the early history of Australia and the Pacific provide the foundation of the Australian printed collections. These include general collections such as the Ferguson, Rex Nan Kivell and Petherick collections, and specialised collections such as the Mathews collection on Australian ornithology.

3.4 The Library has continued to build on these collections by the identification and purchase of out of print items and the acquisition of material on legal deposit. The first legal deposit provisions were contained in the Copyright Act 1912, although a lack of resources prevented the Library from fully exploiting the provisions of the Act until the 1950s. The Library’s broad collecting intention is to continue to collect most of the printed material covered by the legal deposit provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 or by the various arrangements applying to government publications.

3.5 The result is a comprehensive, though not exhaustive, collection of material capable of supporting in-depth research in Australian studies. The Library cooperates with other institutions to ensure material it does not collect is collected and preserved elsewhere in the country. It also takes into account the collecting intentions of the state and territory libraries as outlined in their collecting policies, and those of other collecting institutions with an interest in Australian printed materials (see para 2.9 ).

3.6 The overriding consideration for the inclusion of an item in the Library’s collection is always the information content of a publication. Material which originates outside mainstream publishing, no matter how slight or ephemeral or where it is published, is collected if it is considered to have research value now or in the future. A significant proportion of the literature concerning issues of public debate and associated with groups and movements which characterise current trends in Australian society falls into this category.

3.7 The Library acquires at least one copy of Australian printed material published overseas. These publications are identified through library selection activities and by the Library’s overseas suppliers.

Collecting Guidelines for Specific Categories of Printed Material

3.8 Australian commercial and government publications form the central part of the Australian print collections.

3.9 There are some categories of printed material for which there are specific collecting guidelines. These categories and guidelines are outlined in the remainder of chapter 3. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list and it does not represent the full range of Australian publishing; rather it represents the categories of published material which, in the opinion of Library selection staff, most need clarification in terms of the Library’s collecting intentions. Any category not covered here is taken into the collections subject to meeting the Library’s collecting policy. While providing an indication of the Library’s general collecting intentions in the areas covered, the guidelines are subject to individual judgement which continues to play an important and desirable part in the selection process. These criteria are applied to the acquisition of material from all sources, whether commercial, private or government.


3.10 Representative samples of advertising and promotional material are retained as ephemera, and the same selection guidelines as for ephemera are applied (see paras 3.16 - 3.18 ). Emphasis is given to material that provides illustrations of products, descriptive information and prices, and that is representative of various sales techniques and hyperbole. An attempt is made to cover a wide range of products and services representing, for instance, the domestic marketplace, and the retail, manufacturing, leisure and transportation industries.

Artists’ Books

3.11 Artists’ books are acquired selectively as examples of the art and craft of book production. The Library aims to collect artists’ books from as wide a range of artists as is possible.

Calendars and Diaries

3.12 Calendars and appointment diaries with a particular topic, such as political or social issues, artists, or hobbies (often illustrated through photographs), are collected selectively in order to reflect changing social preoccupations or interests as documented by this area of publishing. Diaries which contain no information other than that usually associated with a diary, such as significant calendar events, mathematical information and other facts and figures, are considered to be items of stationery and are not collected.

Educational Curriculum Materials

3.13 The Library collects the publishing output of commercial publishers and university presses specialising in educational materials. The Library comprehensively collects the publications of Commonwealth government bodies, and national organisations and associations active in educational matters. Research papers and items of general interest and applicability, published by tertiary institutions or specific departments within them, are collected comprehensively.

3.14 The Library does not routinely collect material in the following categories:

  • state based curricula and course materials published by state and territory government bodies or by non-government educational authorities;
  • secondary and tertiary examination papers;
  • classroom educational materials such as study notes, teaching aids, workbooks, resource material, course guides, blackline masters, activity sheets and ‘fill-in’ publications;
  • custom publishing (texts created for a specific course at a specific institution).

On a periodic basis the Library acquires a small representative sample of these materials for the collection.

Embargoed and Restricted Access Publications

3.15 Embargoed and restricted access publications are subject to legal deposit and the Library pursues acquisition of such material with the publisher. Access conditions are negotiated on a case-by-case basis, with the aim of minimising restrictions in the interest of facilitating use of the publications. However, publications which need to be held permanently on restricted access are not usually collected by the Library.


3.16 Publications of fewer than five pages are generally treated as ephemera (subject to the considerations outlined) and may include booklets, leaflets, handbills, invitations, brochures, programs and cards. Such material forms a documentary record of aspects of Australian social life and culture that falls outside traditional sources collected by libraries, but which can nevertheless significantly enrich a view of the past. The Library maintains a selective collection of ephemeral material in the categories described. In common with the broad approach already described, the focus in acquiring ephemeral material is generally national, while material relating specifically to local matters is not collected.

3.17 An item that is accepted for acquisition should include a significant amount of factual or descriptive information, significant visual elements such as design, logos, portraiture, etc. or be an outstanding example of its type.

3.18 The major categories and subject areas of ephemera acquired are:

  • performing arts material, including programs. This is collected in sufficient depth to give a broad, representative coverage of the history of significant Australian theatre, music, dance and allied performing arts;
  • federal election ephemera;
  • the book publishing and information trade, including Australian associations and councils of the book trade, book publishers and dealers, awards, auctions, etc.;
  • material concerned with issues of public debate and associated with groups and movements which characterise current trends in Australian society, e.g. socio-medical issues, political movements and social groups;
  • material relating to geographic areas or describing places of historic interest if it has significant information content, e.g. travel brochures, local area guides;
  • material associated with specific events of national significance, e.g. major national commemorations and national sporting events and topical issues of the day;
  • trade catalogues including advertising material and representative samples showing the nature of products and services available in Australia over a period;
  • realia, artefacts and three-dimensional objects (e.g. coasters, matchboxes, badges, models) where the item is associated with a category of material for which collecting is comprehensive, and where it contains information not readily expressed elsewhere.

Family History and Genealogy

3.19 Family history and genealogy publications containing substantial information of research value and documentary interest are collected. The Library does not acquire graphic representations of family trees, unless accompanied by substantial published text. Newsletters that are mainly of an administrative or social nature and primarily of interest to the society or group producing them are not collected.

Government Publications

3.20 The Library collects Commonwealth government publications comprehensively. State and territory government publications are generally collected comprehensively.

3.21 Publications produced by local government authorities are not generally acquired unless they include significant information content of interest to the broader community.

Limited Editions

3.22 Limited editions of published works are subject to legal deposit and the Library pursues acquisition of these with the publisher. In some circumstances, depending on the number of copies produced and the cost, the Library may purchase limited edition publications.

Materials for People with Disabilities

3.23 Printed materials for people with disabilities are acquired under the Commonwealth legal deposit provisions. This material currently falls into two categories — large print books and mixed media kits — which contain both print and non-print material and which are designed for people with disabilities. Material which falls outside the current legal deposit provisions, such as braille books or audio books, is not actively acquired.

3.24 The Library maintains the National Braille Reserve Collection which comprises last known copies of little-used braille books of a scholarly or reference nature. Titles may be of either overseas or Australian origin.


3.25 Microform publications are not currently covered by Commonwealth legal deposit provisions. Material in this format (i.e. microfilm or microfiche) is usually purchased and is acquired according to the same criteria that guide the selection of material in hard copy.

Mixed Media Kits

3.26 The National Library collects mixed media kits containing a print component. However, the non-print components of these kits are not covered by Commonwealth legal deposit provisions.


3.27 The Library collects all Australian newspapers except those which are considered to be the responsibility of the relevant state and territory libraries. The following categories are not collected:

  • those intended primarily for advertising purposes and consisting mainly of advertisements, including real estate papers;
  • newspapers distributed at the suburban and regional levels which consist of generic text that is used for distribution to different communities and towns accompanied by a cover page that localises the newspaper by containing information relevant only to the particular community or town;
  • titles containing predominantly information that is largely of local community interest only in that it concerns local social, sporting and community events and local services information and advertising.

3.28 Generally back issues and retrospective runs of newspapers are only acquired if they are available in microform. In general, the retrospective acquisition of newspapers in microform follows the policy for the acquisition of current titles except that additional factors such as length of coverage, cost, historic and geographical significance, and research value are also taken into consideration. Often the last two factors only become apparent in retrospect.

3.29 The Library is committed to the preservation within Australia of the total output of Australian newspapers and will cooperate with other institutions through the mechanism of the Australian Newspaper Plan (ANPlan) to achieve this. It accepts that it is responsible for preserving national and Australian Capital Territory newspapers in paper and microform formats, and that preservation of local, regional, state and territory newspapers is the responsibility of the appropriate state or territory library.


3.30 The Library does not collect Australian patent specifications. These are available through IP Australia which actively assists access to the specifications.


3.31 Posters are a form of print material collected selectively by the Library. Acquisition is based on deposit, donation and limited purchasing. The Library aims for representation of the subject areas outlined for the collection of ephemera (see para. 3.18), with posters, as a graphic representation of information and opinion (rather than reflecting artistic merit), complementing the print materials.

Retrospective (Out of Print) Material

3.32 The selection and acquisition of retrospective, or out of print, Australian printed material is essential to the enhancement and enrichment of the Library’s collections.

3.33 Priority consideration for acquisition is given to the following categories of material:

  • ‘rare’ Australiana, including material either listed or not listed (and eligible for inclusion) in J.A. Ferguson’s Bibliography of Australia, but not held by the Library;
  • literature on Pacific voyages, and on the major figures involved in the European discovery and exploration of Australasia;
  • imaginative literature of the eighteenth century and earlier, dealing with the unknown ‘South Land’ or ‘Terra Australis incognita’;
  • Australian imprints in scope for the collection, but which are not held. This includes material published prior to the operation of legal deposit, as well as published material which may have eluded the legal deposit net, such as pamphlet literature, material from private presses and small publishers, limited editions and important ephemeral items. Where such items come to the Library’s attention, and if they meet the collecting criteria for current material outlined, they are acquired by purchase or donation;
  • overseas imprints of publications by Australians or substantially about Australia.


3.34 Serials are publications consisting of a number of parts issued in sequence and linked by a common title. Usually each part bears an issue number and/or date. Serials are intended to continue indefinitely, and include magazines, newsletters, annual reports, yearbooks, directories, and journals. The Library collects most Australian serials except those that fall into the following categories:

  • publicationsconsisting primarily of advertising, promotional or product information;
  • special interest newsletters issued by local churches, clubs, hobby groups, amateur societies, sporting groups, community service organisations, schools, etc. These are considered to be more appropriately held within state or territory library collections;
  • material of an administrative or social nature dealing with and directed to members of an organisation below the state or territory level, e.g. staff newsletters of branches of state or territory government departments, banks, corporate bodies and associations;
  • company interim or quarterly financial statements or prospectuses. Annual reports of publicly listed companies are collected;
  • annual reports of local government authorities (except for capital city CBDs), regional health services, schools, university departments or faculties;
  • media releases;
  • regional phone/business directories. The standard nationally produced phone directories are collected.


3.35 Theses originating from Australian institutions of higher education are not generally collected. However, the Library will, on a very selective basis, acquire higher degree theses that complement existing Library collections and are not accessible through the Australasian Digital Theses Program. The Library also selectively acquires higher degree theses about or by Australians originating in overseas institutions, which meet the criteria set out in this policy.